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Monday, July 25 • 10:45am - 11:45am
F5: "Digging" Legal History in Philadelphia: The Meriwether Lewis Project

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Target Audience: Librarians and researchers interested in learning the uses of modern forensic science techniques and exhumation to prove historical legal facts; librarians and researchers who wish to learn about new developments in the Meriwether Lewis case; librarians and researchers interested in how Philadelphia played a key role in the genesis of the Lewis and Clark expedition

Learning Outcomes:
1. Participants will be able to assess the role of modern forensic science techniques and exhumation in re-examinations of historical legal events.
2. Participants will be able to explain why the accepted version of Meriwether Lewis's death could be controverted by forensic examination of his remains, and will be able to discuss recent developments in the Meriwether Lewis case.

James E. Starrs, Professor Emeritus of Law and Forensic Sciences at The George Washington University Law School, will discuss his Meriwether Lewis Project, now in progress at the request of the Lewis family, to secure the approval of the U.S. Park Service under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) for the exhumation of the remains of explorer Meriwether Lewis. The primary goal of the project is to determine whether Lewis's controversial 1809 death at a frontier inn along Tennessee's Natchez Trace was a suicide or a murder. The contemporary evidence was inconclusive, there being no eyewitnesses. Via forensic analytical techniques nonexistent in the early 1800s, scientists now may be able to provide answers to key questions, such as whether the body exhumed is in fact that of Lewis, and if so, whether gunpowder residue reveals a close-range shot, as well as the location of the bullet wounds, if any. Other facts about Lewis that could bear upon the issue of murder or suicide perhaps could be determined, such as whether he suffered from disease and whether his remains show evidence of the therapeutic use of mercury or other toxic substances. Professor Starrs will explore these issues as well as new developments in the Meriwether Lewis affair. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery to explore the American West with the hope of discovering a transcontinental water route. Though the Lewis and Clark undertaking was aimed at gathering information about the Louisiana Purchase and uncharted western territories, it was not strictly a western venture. It is fitting for this program to be offered in Philadelphia, which later twentieth century research has shown to have furnished not only the venue, but the expertise, to assist and guide Meriwether Lewis in the year of preparation necessary for the launch of the expedition. Today, Philadelphia is home to the archive of the journals of Lewis and Clark (American Philosophical Society), as well as to the Charles Willson Peale portraits of both Lewis and Clark (Second Bank of the United States), both part of Independence National Historical Park in Center City, Philadelphia.


Monday July 25, 2011 10:45am - 11:45am
PCC-Room 204(B)

Attendees (87)


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